NAACP threatens network boycott

Recent 'report card' shows Nets lacking in diversity

HOLLYWOOD — Distressed over lack of progress in TV networks’ efforts to diversify, NAACP prexy Kweisi Mfume has warned that his organization may launch a viewer boycott of one of the four major nets.

Mfume issued the threat in conjunction with Thursday’s release of a “report card” by a multiethnic coalition claiming the major nets had not yet made good on last year’s promises to achieve diversity in programming. NBC received the highest grade with a C, followed by a C- for Fox, D+ for CBS and D- for ABC, with the evaluations based both on shows aired during the past season and upcoming series.

Concerns raised

“One year after the signing of preliminary agreements, we are very much concerned that more progress has not been made,” Mfume said. “We still haven’t seen a greater willingness to empower qualified African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans with the ability to greenlight programs and to make other significant decisions regarding what finally gets on the air.”

Mfume said he will present the NAACP board with several options — a “sustained boycott” of one of the four nets; asking the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to reimpose fin-syn rules, which had limited the nets’ ability to own programming; asking the FCC to limit the percentage of primetime programming that a net could own; and proposing that the Children’s Television Act, which mandates three hours of children’s programming per week, serve as a model for Congress to mandate that nets boost minority programming.

Mfume had first raised the possibility of a boycott over a year ago in response to the lack of minorities on the fall 1999 season shows. The nets subsequently pledged to boost the presence of minorities onscreen and at development and exec levels.

The NAACP will issue its own report on the TV industry at the org’s national convention in July.

The report card — issued by the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, American Indians in Film & TV and the National Latino Media Council — was particularly critical of ABC for canceling “Gideon’s Crossing” and its reluctance to supply information.

“ABC has made no real effort and seems to have no serious commitment to diversity,” said Karen Narasaki, acting chair of the APA Media Coalition. “It seems ABC has actually gone in the wrong direction.”

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